2016-jambo-beers

JAMBO Recap

Or, How We Pillaged a Small Town in New Hampshire. Oh and broke my girlfriend’s leg.

Ah, Jambo (bka The New England Homebrewers’ Jamboree). The one time a year where I allow myself to get completely wasted and be a total ass.* As always, my homebrew club – Metro South Homebrew League aka The MASH HOLES – made the trip up to Tamworth, NH on Friday afternoon for a weekend of drinking, drinking, puking, and drinking. This year was special for a number of reasons. First, it was the 20th anniversary of the event. Second, my lovely and foolishly trusting girlfriend decided to tag along. And third, the “special surprise” I had teased came to fruition: The Swinging Cowboy himself, Dan Joey, made a trip out from California (with his lovely and foolishly trusting girlfriend).

Joey is one of the original members of the MASH HOLES, and earned the nickname “The Swinging Cowboy” at the first Jambo that we attended. He was wearing a sun hat around all weekend, and ended up being propositioned by a couple, hence the name. Anyway, Joey had reached out to me a few months earlier and said he wanted to surprise the club at Jambo. So I helped a little with coordinating that effort, keeping him informed of the plans and surprising the crew with his arrival at Smuttynose.

Friday

Ah the first day/night of Jambo. The Girlfriend, The Dog, and I piled all of our camping shit into The Girlfriend’s larger and more fuel efficient car and started the drive up to New Hampshire. Surviving both my driving and my ranting/raving about other people’s driving, we met up with Joey, Joey’s girlfriend (Michelle), and most of the club at Smuttynose for lunch.

Ya boy's on the left, rocking the Bullet Club shirt and throwing up the Too Sweet.

Ya boy’s on the left, rocking the Bullet Club shirt and throwing up the Too Sweet.

Food and beer were great, natch. Smutty’s Pumpkin Ale was probably the winner, but I’m also a basic bitch so take that opinion with a grain of pumpkin spice. After a pit stop at Stoneface Brewing (best beer: IPA), we arrived at the Tamworth Campgrounds. One of ours, JT, was working the front gate and Andy & Amanda had already camped out the night before.

We spent the next hour or so setting up our tents, arguing about how to layout for pouring tent, casually drinking/watching Jason struggle to put up his tent, and waiting on the rest of the club to arrive. And then the real drinking began.

At this point, I should probably mention The Hammer.

The Hammer. And some MASH HOLES.

The Hammer. And some MASH HOLES.

The Hammer is a club joke/weapon. Our President – unlike our President of Vice – is a soft-spoken guy, so we decided he needed a gavel. As you might expect, a club named the MASH HOLES doesn’t do subtlety very well. And thus The Hammer was born. The Hammer usually stays with me, as I am the most worthy, and makes occasional appearances at club events. This year it became the focal point of our club shenanigans. Some time around 10pm or so, deep into our cups, Joey and I decided that we needed to let the other fine upstanding clubs know that the MASH HOLES were here, and we were here to drink their beer.

So, grabbing The Hammer, we yelled “PILLAGE!!” and stormed off to each tent, demanding “tribute” and “subjugation” (a word that became harder and harder to pronounce). From there, things get a little hazy. We didn’t so much strike fear into our fellow homebrewers as we annoyed the shit out of them. Either way, free beer was add, things were yelled, and I accidentally broke The Girlfriend’s knee. But that’s a story for the courts…

Saturday

Showtime!

Unsurprisingly, many a MASH HOLE had a hard time rising and/or shining. Normal stalwarts were reduced to shameful vomiting, and yours truly managed to miss the case when putting away the contact lenses and had to spend the day four-eyed. After much hemming and hawing about the tent set-up, display, beer names, and literally every other thing that could possibly be argued about, we finally pulled our shit together in time for the festivities.

Our brand spankin' new sign

Our brand spankin’ new sign

A group of HOLES arguing over where to put the new sign. Yours truly, quiet upset.

A group of HOLES arguing over where to put the new sign. Yours truly, quite upset.

We ended up with our merch and sign to the left, our 15 different beers and tap system in the center, and Vinny’s Drinking Game Fuckapalooza on the right. Those first two areas are probably self-explanatory, so let’s focus on the drinking games. A few days before Jambo, I had the brilliant idea to challenge festival goers to drinking games. To entice players, they’d have a chance to win merch if they put money down and were able to best me at either (three cup) Beirut or Flip Cup. They could also take the coward’s way out and throw 3 cornhole bags for a shot at merch. Thankfully (and unthankfully) only one man took the coward’s way out.

Unfortunately what this meant was – as the games originator/mastermind – I was forced to be the primary competition for anyone daring to play. I played about 17 games before taking a mid-day nap. I was awakened by The Girlfriend bursting into the tent yelling “Vinny, get up! Larry said he needs you because Scott is terrible and losing all the games!” And well, the President of Vice can’t leave his club in the hands of someone like Scott. By the end of the day, by the semi-official tally (i.e. a series of cross-marks I made on my arm with a dry-erase marker), my final count was 29 Wins and 11 loses. Good enough to bring in just under $200 for the club.

Outside of my drinking heroics, the club entered our Barrel-Aged Oud Bruin into the competition where it scored a whopping 5 out of 50 from the esteemed* judges, with such helpful feedback* as “sour” and “too sour.” Noted. Next time we make a traditionally sour brown ale, we’ll just make a brown ale instead… I guess. In more qualified beer judging news, big thanks to Jeffrey Lyons of New England Beer Review on Youtube for checking out our tent and reviewing Swinging Cowboy (!!). The MASH HOLES segment starts at 4:04 –

I’m happy to report that Swinging Cowboy was the first keg to be kicked, followed by other fantastic brews: Samurai Juice (Colin’s green tea IPA), Smaug (Larry’s RIS), Dicks out for Harambe (my RIS), Disgusting (my Oktoberfest), Swing and a Mrs. (fka Walk of Shame, Andy’s Coffee Cream Ale), Hopnoxious (Larry’s hoppy saison), Demonic Monk (Colin’s spicy Trappist beer), and several of our other awfully named beers. If my memory serves – which it often doesn’t – every single keg we brought to Jambo this year was kicked by the end of Saturday night.

The night was capped when the fearless and fearsome ladies of the MASH HOLES took The Hammer for a much more successful pillaging. A big thanks to everyone who showed up for Jambo including my brother and parents (!!), who I’m sure were so very proud of my stand-up behavior (i.e. the fact that I was still standing up).

As always: can’t wait til next year!

 

* For those who don’t know me personally, this is what we call “sarcasm.”

Homebrew Con 2016 Recap

Alternate Title: A Bunch of Pictures of Me, Hugging Dudes

Mash Holes - President JD, President of Vice Vinny, and Scotty No Nickname

Mash Holes – President JD, President of Vice Vinny (me), and Scotty No Nickname

Intro

What follows is what I did what I remember of the 2016 Homebrew Con in Baltimore. I’ve bolded some key words and phrases to make this easier to skim through and read the stuff that interests you. Or if you’re like me reading these things: searching for your name. You vain sonuvabitch.

Day 1 – Which I Believe Was a Wednesday

My flight landed in Baltimore around noon, while my Mash Hole cohorts were en route via car from Boston. I took the train straight down to the Convention Center, and since I had plenty of time, wandered the whole 100ft to Pratt Street Ale House. I had roughly one taster-sized glass of Oliver beer for every 10 of those feet I walked (and a pretty good chicken sammich) before heading over to the Convention Center to sign in and pick up my swag-bag.

As members of our Club started trickling into the city, we made our way to the Brewing Network’s 11th anniversary party at Peabody Heights Brewery. We took a (surprising long) school bus there, and I met up with three of my local friends and two of their lady-friends that I’d talked into hanging out. The best beer of the bunch was Peabody Height’s Bourbon Obscura. After a few poor showings of cornhole and a lot of beers, I bid adieu to my friends and hopped on the not-short bus back into town.

The Mash Holes had set up camp at Heavy Seas’ tap house, and I was determined to go join them. So I walked through a part of town I’m pretty sure was part of The Wire for a beer, before heading back and finally crashing for the night. Not a bad start, but the main event was to come.

Day 2 – Thursday. All Day Special: Thursday, All Day

Oh baby. Things got off on the right foot with a shot of bourbon, and a trip to Miss Shirley’s for breakfast. This place doesn’t fuck around (and the prices show it). While most of the boys and gal opted for Bloody Marys, I went straight for a can of Union’s Duckpin Pale Ale with my coffee and chocolate chip pancakes. This was one of the best beers and easily the best meal I had all week.

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

I skipped the morning sessions and opted to check out the Homebrew Expo, and holy shit am I glad I did. I was handed more free stuff than I knew what to do with. Over the course of the Con I filled up two bags worth of swag, including:

  • Roughly a pound of free hops (Zythos, Cascade, Equinox among them)
  • Enough dry yeast for about 10 batches of beer
  • A metric buttload of stickers which now adorn my keezer
  • Five pairs of sunglasses
  • Bottle openers, pens, pins, a bandana
  • And a trucker hat I won from correctly identifying raw hops

I also got to try beers from Bell’sDevil’s Backbone, Sam Adams (who brought so sour stuff), and a myriad of homebrewers. Free stuff and free beer? Win-win. I also got to meet brewing legends like John Palmer and John Blichmann

Frodo and Gandalf, I mean, me and John Palmer

Frodo and Gandalf, I mean, me and John Palmer

Me with John Blichmann (with two N's)

Me with John Blichmann (with two N’s)

Thursday closed with the Key Note address from Sam Calgione of Dogfish Head. Sam’s a relatively engaging speaker, but I’d been on my feet all day drinking free beer and at about the 20 minute mark of his address, I took a little snooze.

Thursday night was Kick-Off Party featuring Maryland brewers and homebrewers. This was basically the pre-game to Friday night. Speaking of which

Friday – Late to Bed, Early to Rise

The first seminars start at 9am which is a borderline war crime. For those of you who have never been to Homebrew Con, the main attraction are the various seminars on topics related to brewing. Here’s a list of the seminars that I remember attending (a lot of them serve beer, so this list is incomplete):

  • The Chemistry of Mashing – this was a 9am college chemistry class
  • Unlocking the Genetic Code of Brewing Strains – this was a 10:15am college biology class
  • How to Fail at Starting a Brewery
  • Going Pro a Pint at a Time
  • High Gravity Brewing: Hitting a Target Gravity with Precision and Quality
  • Homebrew Bloggers Roundtable – where I learned I’m a shitty blogger
  • Modern Perspectives on Traditional Methods
  • Successful Strategies fro Raising Financial Resources for Your Homebrew Club
  • Growing Up: Building a Lasting Homebrew Club
  • More Than a Hobby: Developing Club Leadership for Long-Term Success
Pipe Dreaming

Pipe Dreaming

As you can tell from the titles, homebrewers are a verbose bunch. Most of the seminars were great and super-informative; some weren’t for me and I’ll have a better idea next year of which ones I should attend. It’s weird to think that you go on vacation to sit in a conference room and listen to a lecture, but if you add beer to your next work conference, I guarantee people will be more interested in attending.

Friday night we hit Max’s Taphouse for dinner. Max’s is one of the best beer bars I’ve ever been to, period. Great atmosphere, great beer list, great service (assuming you don’t lollygag at the bar). Can’t say enough good things, but we’ll return to Max’s later, because the main event is up next…

Friday Night – Club Night

So big and bad, Friday night gets its own header. Yes, Club Night. Where homebrewers from all over the country set up shop to foist their beer upon your unsuspecting liver. If you’ve ever been to a beer festival, it is very similar to that, but with amateur brewers who go all out. What’s all out look like?

El Prez, getting sideways in front of Barely Legal

El Prez, getting sideways in front of Barely Legal

Chris, Chip from Chop & Brew, me, and JD with some photobombers

Chris, Chip from Chop & Brew, me, and JD with some photobombers

Jim from my LHBS, dressed to the nines

Jim from my LHBS, dressed to the nines

Chris, JD, Scott, and me with the well-dressed gents of love2brew

Chris, JD, Scott, and me with the well-dressed gents of love2brew

No caption can do this photo justice

No caption can do this photo justice

That’s not including the pirate ship/mobile tap setup; getting served a beer by former Homebrewer of the Year Annie Johnson; so many of the other awesome costumes and booths; and – oh yeah – the beer. Homebrewed beer is a wonderful thing, because you’re never 100% sure what you’re going to get. It could be the best tasting beer in the world or the worst. But you don’t know until you try and try I did.

Saturday – Holy Shit, I’m Still Alive

Ahh, Saturday. The bitter sweet end of Homebrew Con. Despite the end being imminent, this was probably my favorite day of the whole convention. I started off with my only day struggling to get out of bed and ended up at the Homebrew Bloggers Roundtable, featuring Derek Springer, Ed Coffey, Marshall Schottand Matt Humbard and hosted by Chip Walton. I got to find out what a shit-ass blogger I am, which was fun. I also snapped this great photo of Marshall having a bit of a struggle:

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It was an informative panel for a guy who blogs (hey! that’s me!), and a chance to learn from some dudes who do it better than most. What’s better is I didn’t even have to leave the room for Marshall and Malcolm Frazer’s talk on Modern Perspectives on Traditional Methods, aka the Brulosophy seminar. The boys gave a great talk about the methods they use for their experiments exBEERiments, and served the room a 20-minute mash, 20-minute boil hoppy Helles lager that was pretty damn solid, and had none of the flaws you’d expect for fucking around with the beer as they do. I introduced myself to the guys afterwards, because I’m a huge fanboy of their blog but more about that later.

The rest of the day I spent largely with the President of our club, JD, bouncing around to different seminars on how to improve your homebrew club. We picked up a lot of great ideas that I’m anxious to start implementing with the Mash Holes. 2017 is going to be a big year for us, I can already tell. If you’re in the Boston/South Shore area and looking for a homebrew club, hit us up at: metrosouthhomebrewleague at gmail dot com

The day closed with the Awards Banquet, which we were lucky enough to sneak pay to get into. But that’s about where the luck ran out. I cook for myself, so I’ve choked down a lot of bad meals in my time, but this was painful. If the pork chops were any drier you could’ve used them as a wallet. The beers were from Flying Dog, Weyerbacher, and some other local breweries (not Heavy Seas) and they were atrocious. The dessert was stale Cracker Jack and pretzels. I was pretty bullshit about the whole thing.

I think the dinner finally did in the rest of the Mash Hole tribe, but as President of Vice it is my sworn duty to keep the party going (usually well past reason). So when I got a text from Marshall that there was a group at Max’s, I dragged my ass out of the hotel bed and off to meet for “a few beers.”

Conclusion – After the Show, It’s the After-Party

Max’s was fucking hopping when I got there. Among the guest list were:

I got to talk and drink with all these great dudes and a few others whose names escape me due to the copious amount of alcohol I’d been consuming since noon on Wednesday. I literally sat down one-on-one with John Palmer – the man whose book How to Brew literally taught me how to brew – and talk beer and brewing with him. That’s like talking writing with George RR Martin or some equivalent analogy. I talked the ears off the JaDed boys, to the point where I’m now an affiliate of theirs, probably so they’d get me to shut up. I got so drunk I gave what I thought was $5 to a homeless guy, but was actually $20 and then had some street hot dogs before taking one of the most epic homebrew photos of all time:

Fucking Epic

What a fucking trip.

Next year’s Homebrew Con is set for Minneapolis, aka the Windy Apple, and I’m already making plans. My liver and body are still recovering from the onslaught of this year, but I’m hoping that next year will be bigger and better. Maybe there will even be a Mash Holes table for club night? We’ll see…

Cheers!


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The Great Thaw and Peak Brewing Season

Well the Great Thaw is upon us here in the Boston area. Over the past few weeks, the majority of the record snowfall has melted leaving behind a king’s ransom in trash and dog crap. Some cleaning is in my new future, but also so is more brewing.

Spring is peak brewing season for “us” here at Anti-Hero Brewing; it’s warm enough to brew comfortably outside and the ground-water is at its coldest without being frozen. And now that I have a fairly excellent (if I do say so myself) saison recipe to brew again for this Spring/Summer, I’m looking forward to a couple of brew sessions in the near future. Right now I’ve got 4 kegs in the freezer; though two of them – barrel-aged Belgian dubbel and the aforementioned saison – are nearing completion.

The our club – which just got a Twitter account – is having an internal competition this Wednesday for brown ales. I brewed a variant on Arctos, a brown ale I made that was well-received (BJCP score of 38-40). I think this variat, Bad Jackson, is much better than the original. A little bit of roast, some chocolate, good mouthfeel, etc. It’s one of a small handful of beers I’ve brewed that I would purchase commercially (the saison is another).

I’m going to try and kick the saison keg in the next couple days and get another brew day on the calendar for a variant on the recipe; I was unsatisfied with the yield and think I can get more beer if I alter the bittering hop addition. I also want to brew a couple of IPAs this summer and get one that I’m happy with which is pretty much a never-ending pursuit for me. We’ll see how it goes.

deadpool-enjoys-beer

Gone Clubbin’

Short post tonight.

I mentioned a few posts ago that I’d have news regarding a new homebrew club. I am happy to report that I am a proud member of the Metro South Homebrew League (aka the “MaSH Holes”) based south of Boston, MA.

We had our kick-off meeting on May 7th and our follow-up last night (May 21st). We’ve elected our officers and are getting ready to make it official with the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). It’s been a pretty exciting first few weeks, and I’m fight the urge to get over-zealous about it. I brought the Matt Brown Marzen and the Bandito IPA to the meetings and both were (surprisingly) well-received. Our group has a great mix of experienced and inexperienced brewers as well as extract/all-grain/brew-in-a-bag.

We also started talking about doing something for the New England Homebrew Jamboree, but we’ll have to see how things work out with that. I’m absolutely thrilled about all this. I’ve already started mapping out my next homebrew purchases (oh God, so expensive). I couldn’t be more excited.